SmartThings hub, Alarm.com hub, or both?


#1

This is my second post here and I again find myself in a position where I thought I had things figured out, but am now not so sure. We’re moving into a new house that is all pre-wired for the alarm, which includes a DSC panel.

Originally my plan was to get the ST hub to run all of my home automation stuff, to include a Honeywell thermostat, door lock, Ring door bell cam, a couple other cams and various GE Z wave dimmers, switches, etc. That all seemed pretty simple. I work part time at an electronics retailer and can get discounts on everything listed above.

However, I recently talked to my brother in law who works for an alarm company. He is suggesting that I just get the alarm.com app and use that for everything. I know I wouldn’t be able to use the Ring stuff, but there seems to be a comparable replacement for everything that I want to use, except for the thermostat that I already bought - the Honeywell RTH9585WF.

It is my understanding that each piece of equipment monitored by the alarm.com app results in an additional monthly charge. It seems that these charges can add up pretty quickly. I believe it was roughly $50-$60/month in additional charges by the time I added the door lock, doorbell cam, and garage door opener. One of my main questions is what is the benefit of doing it this way vs. running everything off of the ST hub with no additional monthly cost? I guess I can see a couple things that would be kind of nice, like having the front door lock tied to the alarm system, so it can disarm the alarm when we unlock the other door. But, aside from that, I’m not sure I see the value in paying a monthly fee to have the other stuff.

So, what are your recommendations? I see a lot of posts about people using both and trying to integrate the two. But, I didn’t find anything about which one is a better option. So, maybe a combination of the two is the best option. If so, what pieces do you recommend running off of the ST hub and what do you recommended using the alarm.com hub for?


(Nathan Curtis) #2

For me - neither… Why compromise? Because of that DSC there’s a ton of existing sensors in your house that would be a shame to lose and you already have ST working sooo there’s a solution here: DSC -> EVL-3(4) -> Alarmserver -> Smartthings that uses your existing DSC panel. It looks daunting but isn’t really that hard to setup. Then it still works as normal but ties into ST. You dont have to setup much ‘new’ except for the EVL3/4 and the raspberry pi bridge running alarmserver. You might be able to go without paying for monitoring - depending on who that panel is from and the rules of your homeowner’s insurance.

The pros

  • maybe no monitoring fees - depends on if you can go non-monitored I’ll pay the price of the equipment for the one time setup v. the service because I don’t need a monitoring service for my homeowner’s discount (yes I checked)
  • The DSC Alarm is a true local residential alarm system and will work whether or not ST is up.
  • ST gets to use all the sensors and detectors and status and the alarm can be armed disarmed by events in your home if you wish (two way communication)
  • One pane of glass. (You can use one app rather than add yet another app to your setup)
  • Customization Customization Customization - Anything you can do with ST you can now do with the alarm too. It’ll just be connected devices that stuff like WebCoRE and other automations can use.

The cons

  • Depends on your tolerance for DIY - it does require a bit of setup knowledge including Raspberry Pi / Raspbian, basic network and installing an alarm ‘keypad.’
  • Have to setup a raspberry pi and keep it running
  • have to add an additional device to your Alarm
  • May have to fight with the company who installed the board to get the admin code or replace the board. (This was my biggest con, but I chose to take it - see below)

For mine I did indeed have to replace the DSC alarm panel to get rid of the old board (the old company refused to give me admin codes for a 15 year old board) - but it was only 125 bucks and an easy direct swap out for a much more capable board. I’m going to bet money that with a new install, the company that installed the board won’t give up the admin code, so just assume you might need to replace it.


#3

Thank you for the response. I’m trying to wrap my head around this. But, if I am understanding you correctly, your solution would basically let me keep all of the existing equipment, but use the ST panel and run everything through the ST app. Also, this would basically create a stand alone alarm system with no monitoring or any connection to an alarm company. Am I understanding things correctly?

I’m not sure that I want to forego the monitoring capability, which is the main reason for considering alarm.com originally.


(sidjohn1) #4

(Lee Florack) #5

@PamAndJim

I (obviously) have SmartThings and I also have a separate dedicated, monitored Security System purchased through Frontpoint.com. Frontpoint uses Alarm.com for monitoring, etc… So, here’s my opinions:

  • I love SmartThings for home automation purposes. However, using it for anything to do with Security is a huge mistake. It’s just not a viable security system IMHO. Forgetting for a minute that it’s not monitored at all and if you’re OK with that (I’m not), again IMHO SmartThings is simply not robust, stable or reliable enough to entrust my home and family’s security to it. Lots of people do. So, more power to them. But I’m not them. It’s certainly up to you, but that’s my opinion.

  • Since I’m going through Frontpoint, your particular use of another vendor for Alarm.com service could easily be different, but I do not pay more in monthly fees for each new piece of equipment I purchase and deploy. There is a upfront purchase cost of course, but if it’s within your plan tier, there is no additional monthly cost. For instance, Frontpoint.com offers three plan levels. Here is a quick (and incomplete) look at what’s in each one;

    - Protection - 24/7 Monitoring, Sensors for; Motion, Glass Breaks, Door, Window, Fire/Smoke, Carbon Dioxide and water leaks
    - Interactive - All above and Remote access and control via app or online, Light and Switch control (Z-Wave) Geofences for warnings and notifications.
    - Ultimate - All above and Door locks and Cameras with monitoring

  • I’m on the Interactive plan. So, if I need more sensors, I buy them and install them but my monthly plan fee does not change because monitoring of sensors are included in my plan. I’ve added about 6 additional motion and door/window sensors to my system since my initial installation and my fee hasn’t increased at all because of those additional sensors.

  • If I wanted to add monitored cameras (I don’t), I’d have to move up to the Ultimate plan before purchasing and installing the cameras because monitored cameras are only available in the Ultimate plan.

  • In spite of loving FrontPoint.com / Alarm.com for a Security System, would I suggest using it for HA too? Nope. It’s not anywhere as flexible or as powerful as SmartThings is - for HA. I’ve deployed (3) Z-Wave switches on my Frontpoint system so I can reboot my cable modem, ST hub and a few other infrastructure things (Frontpoint.com / Alarm.com is cellular) when they go out, but for other than on-demand and fixed schedule turning on/off things, it’s really not very useful or flexible to me.

  • Both of these systems run pretty much independently and that would seem to be a pain. However, both are good at different things.

  • BTW - Frontpoint.com / Alarm.com is completely DIY.

  • I’ve had my Frontpoint system for over five years and it has been absolutely rock solid. That’s what I need for a security system. SmartThings hasn’t been solid this month.

YMMV. Hope this helps.


(Ron Talley) #6

The following has worked for me flawlessly since setting it up.

I have a DSC Panel with 28 sensors to include motions, contacts, glass breaks COs and Smokes. These were already pre-wired before I moved in.

I have professional monitoring through ADT for the DSC home alarm that cost about $30/month.

I was able to use the EVL4 to integrate all of the DSC Sensors into ST to use as ST devices for HA as well as setting up custom monitoring.

To this, I run a community built app on a Raspbian Pi3


(Nathan Curtis) #7

Yes, although you could go for the monitoring as well. It doesn’t disallow it.

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#8

Thank you for the very detailed response/review. This is the conclusion that I am coming to. So, like you I think I’ll just run the two separately, alarm.com for security and ST for automation. The ST hub is affordable enough and I can get the Connect Home for about $20 more which has the added benefit of boosting my wi-fi signal. Plus, I’ll be able to use the thermostat that I already have (got a great deal on it) and all will be right with the world.


(Lee Florack) #9

You’re very welcome. Good luck!